Ethan W. Lasser Receives Ninth Annual Frost Essay Award

May 2, 2013
News Release

The editorial board of American Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s scholarly journal, has awarded the 2012 Patricia and Phillip Frost Essay Award to Ethan W. Lasser, Margaret S. Winthrop Associate Curator of American Art at the Harvard Art Museums. His article, “Selling Silver: The Business of Copley’s ‘Paul Revere,’” appeared in the fall 2012 issue (vol. 26, no. 3).

The Frost Award recognizes excellent scholarship in the field of American art history by honoring an essay that advances the understanding of the history of the arts in America and demonstrates original research and fresh ideas. The award, established in 2004, is presented annually to the author of the most distinguished contribution to the journal and carries a $1,000 prize. Funding for this award is made possible by the contribution of the Patricia and Phillip Frost Endowment.

“The Smithsonian American Art Museum is committed to supporting innovative research and scholarship in the field of American art, and the museum’s journal provides an important vehicle for disseminating these findings,” said Elizabeth Broun, The Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. “Ethan Lasser’s article for American Art brings fresh perspectives to John Singleton Copley’s iconic portrait of Paul Revere, opening readers’ eyes and minds to the richness and complexity of the artist, his sitter and his era.”

Each year, a jury of three members of the journal’s editorial board selects the winner from articles, interviews and commentaries published in American Art during the previous calendar year. The 2012 jurors were Martin A. Berger, professor and chair of history of art and visual culture at the University of California, Santa Cruz; Alan C. Braddock, Ralph H. Wark Associate Professor of Art History and American Studies at The College of William and Mary; and Jennifer L. Roberts, professor of history of art and architecture and chair of the program in American studies at Harvard University.

The jurors wrote of the prize-winning article, “Lasser makes a bold new argument about one of the most famous and beloved images in American art history. Through a masterful visual analysis, the author shows that, through complex visual metaphors and subtle cues of pose and costume, Copley invests the body of Paul Revere with allusions to all stages of the production of the teapot he holds, from silversmithing to heraldic engraving, painting Revere as a true embodiment of his work. In doing so, Lasser resituates the portrait as one of a transatlantic class of images that were created to promote the wares of artisans in the 18th century. He sets the portrait more firmly within the specific politics of artisanal labor of the period. He provides convincing explanations for aspects of the portrait that have resisted interpretation in the past. And, perhaps most importantly, he provides us with a powerful new model for understanding the connections between painting and the decorative arts.”

Before being appointed associate curator at the Harvard Art Museums, Lasser was curator at the Chipstone Foundation in Milwaukee, from 2007 to 2012. Lasser has curated numerous exhibitions of American decorative arts and contemporary craft. His most recent exhibition was “The Tool at Hand” (2011), a traveling exhibition organized for the Chipstone Foundation. Current projects include the 2014 reinstallation of the Harvard Art Museums and an exhibition that explores Harvard University’s patronage of Boston artists and artisans and the transmission of technical and artisanal knowledge in the 18th century. Lasser earned a doctorate in the history of art from Yale University in 2008.

The journal American Art is part of the museum’s active publications program, which includes books and exhibition catalogs. It is produced by the museum’s Research and Scholars Center, which also administers fellowships for pre- and postdoctoral scholars and offers unparalleled research databases and extensive photographic collections documenting American art and artists.

Information about subscribing, purchasing single issues or submitting articles to the journal, which is published for the museum by the University of Chicago Press, is available online, A complete list of past Frost Essay Award winners and additional information about the award is available on the museum’s website,

About the Smithsonian American Art Museum

The Smithsonian American Art Museum celebrates the vision and creativity of Americans with artworks in all media spanning four centuries. Its National Historic Landmark building is located at Eighth and G streets N.W., above the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metrorail station. Museum hours are 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. Follow the museum on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Pinterest, ArtBabble, iTunes and YouTube. Museum information (recorded): (202) 633-7970. Smithsonian Information: (202) 633-1000. Website:

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